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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lady of the place

The potato-patch-to-be[posted by risa]

I started my weekend by getting into overalls and an old wide-brimmed hat. I put my hair, which is well over two feet long, up into a ponytail and did without earrings and makeup for the time being. My feet I put into clodhoppers cut down from old rubber boots.

Olga! Wooga wooga.

I made and carried about eleven mower bags of grass clippings into the circle garden and spread that around, then gathered up a few tools and a ladder and headed out to the barn to reroof where yet another windstorm had ripped the roll roofing loose. One waits until the temperature is above sixty (F.) to do this, and the roofing had hung there for a couple of weeks, with Beloved dodging around it get inside and collect eggs. Now the roofing had softened in the rare but welcome sunshine, and I set the ladder against the barn and climbed up. I set the tools out of the way, and pulled up the errant section.

This stuff is called 90 lb. felt for a reason, as a roll of it, which doesn't go very far, weighs just that. I'm much less strong than when I was, ostensibly, that other person, so there was quite a bit of huffing to get it all onto the shed roof, but it came along graciously enough -- i.e., all in one piece. Getting it down to the roof edge from which it had blown took a good deal more effort than hauling it up, as it turned out, because I could not take the ladder around and pull, which would have been the thing to do -- the chicken run is roofed over with poultry netting, up to and even with and tacked onto the barn roof -- and prevents that. And walking backwards onto the stuff would result in a dismal scene. So I had to kneel, in the heat, and push, encourage and cajole the roll roofing into place, then tuck it under the next course above it before nailing down.

Besides the nails, which had failed, I chose this time to also put in two- inch screws every three nails, using a Phillips-head bit fastened into a brace-and-bit. This tool has been in the family for a good sixty years, is precision-machined, with a chuck that rotates in the hand to lock up the bit, and large and comfortable freely-rotating Bakelite handles. This brace has been sometimes abused with weather and it has never rusted. You couldn't get one of these now, for any kind of money, I should think. It sinks speed screws almost as fast as a power drill, but without all the noise, and is one of our most prized possessions.

Looking over my work, I wasn't satisfied. This roof is always the one that catches the worst of what the winds have in mind. So I concluded to climb down and go get some one-by fours to bolt down at intervals, perpendicular to the troubled edge.

I leisurely backed down the ladder into the farmyard, with Barred Rocks running to me from all the corners for a chance to peck at the paint spots on my trouser legs, and turned around. There, not twenty feet away, stood a heavy-set young man, mustachioed and t-shirted, with his mouth flapping.

A woman alone for the day on a country place does not expect unheralded intrusions of this kind, and I checked my hip pocket first to see that I had unfettered access to my equalizing device, which I did. I then realized that the mouth-flapping meant that I had turned off my hearing aid, probably in response to my own hammering. So I reached up and switched my ears on.

The young man stopped talking for a moment, and covered his mouth in embarrassment.

"I'm so, so sorry, ma'am, I thought .. I called you 'sir' as you came down the ladder, but now I see my mistake."

"That's all right; roofing can be kind of awkward to do in a dress. Can I help you with something?" I moved toward the front of the house, where our current woodpile is, and he accompanied me, presumably in the direction of his vehicle. There it sat in the shade, with a passenger, another young man, this one with a walrus mustache, in the shotgun seat, who waved companionably. The back of the pickup truck was clearly a cooler unit, and was emblazoned with the name of a local meat locker outfit.

"I sure am sorry, ma'am, and that's a fact. Well, we ... uh, we just made a delivery to your neighbor across the street, and we, we wondered if you'd like to buy any meats -- we got beef, lamb, chicken ... " He looked back at the Barred Rocks, who were lined up along the fence, straining to hear every word. "Umm, I guess you got chicken."

"They are all layers. Good ones, too. But we have, in the freezer, mostly goose."

"Oh. wow, goose. Well, uh, maybe some good fresh beef, whaddya think?"

"I think that I like good fresh beef, but the freezer is full. Thank you so much for stopping by."

True about the freezer. Well, it's mostly fruit and vegs, but our geese, Sylvia, Susannah, and Sylvester, had turned out to be Silvio, Susannah, and Sylvester, and we do discriminate against extra boys in the farmyard. So we are down to Susannah and Sylvester, and some pretty good roast goose. Much quieter now, too.


Poor fellas!

I know that I present with mixed signals when my guard is down. One does. They had, presumably, seen me in the distance, and attempted an impromptu cold call. Men with something to sell, who are at all mannerly, as these pretty much were, are more apt to walk right up into a farmyard, two hundred feet from the street, when they see whom they believe to be the man of the place pottering about, and say hello from about thirty feet away, where they might never attempt such a thing if they see, from that distance, that it is the lady of the place. Hence their confusion. They had committed what could have been interpreted as a serious faux pas, and both apologized several more times before they drove away.

Gee, kind of sweet. I had had no idea I could pass in overalls, farm boots, and a man's hat! Such is the power of body shape, for mine, once I had turned around, was clearly not that of any man.

Made my day, anyway.

Which was a good thing, as the very next thing I did after roofing was to round the corner of the house and discover that the hose between the solar water heater and the house could not take the heat from a sixty degree day. The polyethylene outer sheath had swollen in several places, and water had forced its way through the woven inner sheath and burst the polyethylene in one spot, hosing down the house with hot water for I don't know how long. I swiftly shut down the spigot on the hot water tank (hot hot, HOT!) -- and reflected on how prone to error is this business of lowest-of-the-low-budget plumbing.

Having nothing on hand with which to carry out a better scheme, I went back to making and carrying loads of grass clippings, this time to the new potato patch...



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